Monday, June 29, 2009

patriotic reasons to drink wine

In the spirit of Independence Day, we resume the countdown of 101 reasons to drink wine with an homage to the founding fathers.

50. Thomas Jefferson, who died at age 83 on July 4, 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence) likely owed his longevity in part to his lifelong habit of moderate wine consumption. The average life was about half of Jefferson's long and productive span in those times. And there was no greater fan of wine in America.
"Good wine is a necessity of life for me."
--Thomas Jefferson

51. Benjamin Franklin was another lover of wine and the good life. Among his many useful observations he noted "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." I say a penny saved is a penny you can spend on wine. But reflecting on the miracle of turning water into wine, Franklin says it best:
"But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

52. Count John Adams among the founding enophiles. During a sea blockade that reulted in wine imports being curtailed, Adams wrote to his beloved Abigail from Philadephia:

"I would give three guineas for a barrel of your cyder. Not one drop of it to be had here for gold, and wine is not to be had under sixty-eight dollars per gallon, and that very bad ... In short, I am getting nothing that I can drink, and I believe I shall be sick from this cause alone. Rum is forty shillings a gallon, and bad water will never do in this hot climate in summer where acid liquors are necessary against infection." Adams died the same day as Jefferson, at age 90.

53. And not to be left out is George Washington. While not the enthusiast Jefferson was, he appreciated the importance of wine in daily living and health, and kept a well-stocked cellar. So this holiday raise a toast to the founding fathers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tax wine to pay for health care? Bad idea.

We are just about halfway through the countdown of 101 healthy reasons to drink wine, leading up to the publication of the second edition of Age Gets Better with Wine from the Wine Appreciation Guild August 17. So we pause to consider a topic of current importance, the debate in congress about health care reform and how to pay for it. One of the proposals being floated is the recurring theme of “sin taxes” which are erroneously interpreted as including wine along with all alcoholic beverages. The logic is that since alcohol contributes to health problems and is a discretionary expense, it should make a contribution to health care costs. This is exactly backwards.
Here’s why: Moderate drinkers (and that is most people), especially wine drinkers, actually have lower health care costs because they are healthier. You have seen a partial list of the many health benefits with this countdown, but the government’s own studies confirm it. A 2006 study of drinking habits in Medicare patients revealed that over a 5-year period, moderate wine drinkers (defined as those consuming 6-13 glasses of wine per week) had medical costs averaging about $2000 less than nondrinkers. (Reference available on request.) So by implication, health care expenditures across the board could be decreased substantially by a program of promoting wine drinking, not taxing it. How about a tax on high-fructose corn syrup instead?
"I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens."
-Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Age Gets Better with Wine: 5 more reasons

45. A study in rats, who were given either red wine or alcohol in the same percentage to drink over 6 weeks, found several changes in their fat cells compared to those drinking only water. Both the red wine and alcohol groups gained less weight than the nondrinkers despite equivalent overall calorie consumption. The wine drinkers had smaller fat cells, which is a good thing.
46. A wine-derived compound called quercetin improved liver and pancreas function in diabetic rats. Although resveratrol has received a lot of attention as an anti-diabetes therapy, this study showed how other wine polyphenols help too.
47. A form of quercetin called Q3 was tested for anti-flu viral activity and found to be more potent that oseltamivir (Tamiflu) according to a recent study from Korea. This provides further support to findings that wine drinkers have fewer colds and flu.
48. A study from Brazil evaluated the effect of wine polyphenols on a type of brain cancer called glioma. They found that resveratrol and quercetin together had a synergistic effect on inhibiting cancer cell growth.
49. And to further the idea that resveratrol isn't the only good thing in wine, another study looked at the effects of quercetin on the inflammatory effects of exercise on muscle. This is an important study because it is one of the few clinical studies reported. They found that quercetin supplementation reduced inflammatory markers after 3 days of intense exercise in trained cyclists.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

4 more reasons: counting to 101

41. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have found that moderate drinking releases endorphins, those molecules in the brain that make you feel good. Marathon runners get this sort of natural high by running "through the wall" but I'd prefer moderation in both my exercise routine and drinking. Heavy drinking cancels the effect.
42. Bone density. A number of studies point to a positive correlation between moderate drinking and preservation of bone density with aging. Although this seems to hold for all categories of drinking (beer vs. wine vs. spirits) to some degreee, the association is most positive for wine. This is especially true for postmenopausal women, who are at greater risk for osteoporosis.
43. A study from UCLA (my alma mater) found that moderate drinkers are at lower risk for disabilities of any type as they age, as compared to nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. This is another example of the J-shaped curve.
44. Why you should have red wine with meat: I love a good steak as much as the next guy, but there is the downside of not only saturated fats but harmful oxidants (free radicals). Recent research has shown that when red wine is consumed along with the red meat, the formation of these harmful substances is thwarted. Not that you would hoist a glass of chardonnay with your prime rib anyway.

Monday, June 8, 2009

alcohol helps prevent gallstones.

40. This one gets a post by itself because it is hot off the press: Alcohol helps prevent gallstones. This is another reason why the benefits of drinking, especially red wine, can't be put into a pill "with all the benefits of wine without the alcohol." Gallstones can lead to abdominal pain, surgery, even pancreatitis, which believe me you don't want. Just remember moderation is the key as always.

Monday, June 1, 2009

More healthy reasons to drink red wine ; counting to 101

Arthritis is an category that has some particularly interesting responses to wine drinking. As we continue to count up to 101 reasons to drink red wine, we start with:
37. Gout. This one surprised even me, since it has long been standard advice for gout victims to avoid rich foods and drinks. But a review from the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego found that wine drinkers actually have a lower incidence of gouty arthritis.
38. The inflammatory actions of arthritis are largely mediated through a chemical called Tumor Necrosis Factor. Resveratrol from wine is a potent neutralizer of TNF.
39. In two large Scandinavian studies, alcohol consumption coorelated with a decreasing risk for rheumatiod arthritis, as much as 40% lower in the heaviest drinkers.